Putting Polio to Good Use

Add polio to a host of other viral and bacterial foes that, in modified forms, could prove therapeutically beneficial. Although Russian scientists attempted to use polio to treat cancer in the 1960s--unpublished experiments about which little is known--a recent brain cancer study in mice is the first modern-day attempt to harness the power of the virus (M. Gromeier et al., "Intergeneric poliovirus recombinants for the treatment of malignant glioma," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 97:6803-8, June 6, 2000). Study investigators report that polio, a skilled neural pathogen, may be particularly suitable for destroying malignant gliomas, cancers typically difficult to target with chemotherapy or radiation because of the brain's nearly impenetrable defenses. In one series of experiments, 18 of 25 mice with brain tumors had no evidence of residual tumors after injection with the virus. Aiding polio's potency and specificity is the virus'...

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